About Us

Bryant, Wisconsin
With over 20 years of experience with Siberian huskies, we have a lot to reflect on. Except for the occasional acquisition from outside of our kennel, we have raised all of our dogs. We have raced in 16 states and provinces and have put thousands of miles behind the dog teams that we have proudly watched grow up from puppies. In the process, the dogs and other mushers have taught us husbandry, nutrition, genetics, skill in training, and lots of patience, perseverance, and humility.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flop ears, speckles, and that black saddle........

Today, as I was working with the dogs at feeding time, I was noticing how similar in appearance Rigby (one of the Jasper/Quarry females) is to Smokey, Jasper's mother. The coat color, face, eyes, and most of all, the slightly flopped ears are nearly identical. This sent my mind off in two different directions of thought-- all the breed adulteration stories we've heard through the years, and the remarkable way that packages of genes stay intact through the generations. The genetic side I'll save for a later post. It's more interesting, but the adulteration stuff is more irritating to me, so here we go.......

To most people involved with Siberians, the flop ear that shows up is surely a sign that the hound is back there, and not too far. A long-time Siberian driver once told us, when he saw Quarry for the first time (she has a black saddle), "Yep, that's the German shepherd back there." That would also be the same person that assigned the flop ear to the hound. On the surface this reasoning seems somewhat logical and believable, and this is why we bump full-face into it all the time, wherever we go with our flop-eared and saddle-backed dogs. Winter before last, a well-known Siberian driver revealed to us, after seeing Fat Pants and his bent ears on our truck, that she had recently sold a puppy merely because of ears like that. Recently, a friend of ours sold some Siberians to the East. As they were viewed in their new home by some other Siberian mushers from that region, the accusations began. They certainly couldn't be Siberians--"Look at those black speckles against the white feet on those dogs!" I guess the Anadyr-line dogs with similar markings can't be pure either, huh? The adulteration is found in a different form in Europe. The same friend has had trouble convincing some dog sale prospects over there that his dogs really are Siberians because why? Because, of all things, THEY ARE VERY BLACK!

To me this is rampant ignorance and a real disservice to the breed. It is irritating that these people cannot even see past it to appreciate some really good dogs. We can thank the Victorians and the rise of the kennel clubs for all of this, not just in Siberians, but all working breeds. Standards of appearance were developed that gradually eclipsed genetic continuity and bloodline purity, as well as made the dogs' performance qualities (their actual reasons for existing) secondary. It is well-known that breeding purely within a bloodline can produce traits that ordinarily are not seen in that breed. I remember waking up to this years ago when I read about a controlled breeding experiment with wild foxes. After selecting the tamest breeding pairs over 10 generations, lo and behold, traits like different coat colors/markings and FLOPPY EARS showed up. Hound in those foxes?--I don't think so.

We all choose what style of dogs to keep, and this is especially true with purebreds. But why should these personal preferences be used to defend one's dogs as the only real Siberians? At NorthEnough we are breed purists, however we select only for performance. There aren't many cosmetic traits that would impact how well a dog performs, but if there are, they would be addressed through selection strictly for well-rounded performance. A coat to keep a dog warm enough in the cold could be an example, as would some aspects of conformation. Form follows function in this case. " The race is the judge and the standard is success."

I would ask all of you to research some photos of the original Siberian imports and you will see how different the typical show Siberian is today. If "Iron Man" John Johnson showed up to one of our races, he would be accused of adulterating the breed (especially if he won the race or beat most of the teams). How ludicrous!

Rumors of adulteration exist for every line. We have personally been told stories about the Zero s, the Seppalas, the Anadyrs, the Kodiak and White Water Lake dogs, the Northomes--and each and every conflicting rumor-generator swears they know what they know. Hmmm, not a pure Siberian to be found nowadays, huh? If your Siberians don't look like my Siberians, are you the liar, or am I? Will the real Siberian please stand up.

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